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President Trump broadened his Twitter attacks on leading black figures Monday to include the Rev. Al Sharpton, as conservative African American pastors defended him from claims that he's racist following a meeting with him.

Why it matters: Trump has faced growing accusations of racism for targeting lawmakers of color and repeatedly lashing out at Rep. Elijah Cummings on Twitter and the majority-black Baltimore-area district he represents, notably calling it "a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess."

Details: Coalition of African American Pastors president Bill Owens said about 20 people attended the closed-door meeting with the president, according to a public pool report.

  • ABC News reports that while Alveda King, a niece of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., walked away without answering a question about whether Trump is racist, Owens said, "I find that hard to believe, considering the things he’s done for the black community. Positive things for the black community."

The big picture: Before the meeting, Trump lashed out at Sharpton, and he continued his Twitter attacks on Cummings and the 4 congresswomen of color he targeted in his now-infamous "go back" tweets — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley — known as "the squad."

If the Democrats are going to defend the Radical Left "Squad" and King Elijah’s Baltimore Fail, it will be a long road to 2020. The good news for the Dems is that they have the Fake News Media in their pocket!
— Trump tweet

What he's saying: Sharpton tweeted, "Trump says I’m a troublemaker & con man. I do make trouble for bigots. If he really thought I was a con man he would want me in his cabinet."

  • He later told MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show" that Trump has "decided he's going to have a race-based campaign by going after high-profile blacks."

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